A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN 53
stopping this sand and of breathing their fill of pure,
fresh air. But this dream came true only in a socialist
country. The people conferred together and launched a
campaign against the wind and sand. Every Saturday the
entire population came out with picks and shovels and
axes and, in time, a park arose in the former vacant city
square and young, slender poplar-trees lined the narrow
streets. The people carefully watered and pruned these
trees as if they were flowers growing on their own
windowsills. Alexei remembered how, in the spring, all
the inhabitants, young and old, rejoiced when the thin,
bare branches sprouted and garbed themselves in green___
Suddenly, he pictured to himself the Germans in the
streets of his native Kamyshin. They were cutting down
the trees, which the people had tended so carefully, to use
them for firewood. His native town was enveloped in
smoke, and on the spot where his home had been, where
he had grown up and where his mother had lived, reared
a bare, sooty, monstrous chimney, like this one here.
His heart was torn with pain and anguish.
"They must not be allowed to go any farther! We must
fight them while there is breath left in our bodies, like
that Russian soldier had done who lay on top of the
enemy bodies in that forest glade."
The sun was already touching the grey tops of the trees.
Alexei crawled down what had once been the village
street. The smell of corpses came from the heaps of ashes.
The village seemed more deserted than the forest. Sud-
denly, a strange sound brought him to the alert. Near a
heap of ashes at the very end of the street he saw a dog.
It was a shaggy, flap-eared house dog, just an ordinary
Bobik or Zhuchka. Growling softly, it was worrying a
piece of flabby meat that it held between its paws. On
catching sight of Alexei, this dog, which is supposed to be
the most genial of animals, the object of the constant
scolding of housewives and the favourite of urchins, sud-
denly snarled and bared its teeth. Its eyes burned so
fiercely that Alexei felt a shiver run down his spine.
He threw off his "mitten" and reached for his pistol.
For several moments the man, and the dog that had be-
come a wild beast, stood glaring at each other, and then
some recollection must have dawned on the animal, for